I was reminded the other day of just how much our bird life has changed over the course of my birdwatching life (c40 years). Many of the species I regarded as regulars even 20 years ago have now become rare in, or indeed disappeared from, the UK and some species which we regarded as Mediteranean then are now common. Predominant amongst those are the white ‘Herons’ – Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Little Egret and Spoonbill. I remember it taking me around 10 years till I saw my first Little Egret. It became a species I kept missing, always arriving after it had moved on. Now I see them in my local park and more often than not, I see more of them than Grey Herons on trips to estuaries. They even breed in London now. The other 3 species also now breed in the UK and are found in increasing numbers and are no longer considered rarities. A sign of the changing time and climate.

The church of St Thomas the Apostle, Harty lies in the middle of Harty Marsh on the Isle of Sheppey, off the north coast of Kent. The Church dates from the late 11th or early 12th century, with later additions in the late 14th or early 15th century. It was last restored in 1878-80. The village of Harty is mentioned in the doomsday book (1086) and was a much busier place until the ferry between the island and the mainland stopped running in 1946 (replaced by a bridge at the western end of the island). It is now surrounded by farmland and nature reserves.

Inside there are a number of features worth seeing including the Rood Screen (1350-75) and a 14th-century Flemish chest. The stained glass, although mostly 20th century has many themes connected to local farming.

Last week Keith, Sue, and I spent a day birdwatching on the Isle of Sheppey, off the north coast of Kent. Our first stop was south of the town of Leysdown on the eastern end of the island. There had been a party of Shore Larks here for a few days and we hoped to catch up with these attractive but increasingly rare winter visitors to the UK. We had only just arrived when a pair of birdwatchers further along the sea wall were signalling to us and we were soon looking at a group of 4 Shore larks on the field below us. They then flew up onto the sea wall to give us even clearer views. There was also a large party of Brent Geese on the mudflats.

From here we drove west and took the Harty road towards the south coast of the island. This long and winding road crosses Harty Marshes with opportunities for birdwatching along the route. At one stop we saw a distant White-fronted Goose in a field, but we were struck by the absence of birds of prey, except for a lone Kestrel, along the way. This may in part have been a result of the strong winds that were blowing all day.

At the end of this road is Harty Ferry, the site of the old ferry to the mainland (now replaced by a road bridge at the western end). Scanning the marshes, we had a selection of wading birds including Oystercatcher, Curlew and a single Godwit. Two Marsh harriers were seen distantly but along with another two kestrels, these were the only birds of Prey.

Soon it was time to make our way back across Harty Marsh towards home, stopping briefly at a site just by the bridge to the mainland, where we saw a small flock of thrushes. Unfortunately, we were unable to identify them before they flew off. Were these a group of newly arrived winter thrushes?

A good day with the highlight being the wonderful views of Shore Lark.

An amazing outburst of Fungi

Posted: November 10, 2021 in Natural History
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Tree in garden

The other day I noticed this collection of fungi around one tree in the garden. I have never seen such a large collection of fungi here before.

Here is a photo of a liner that was laid up off Paignton during my recent trip together with an amazing Devon sunset.

It had apparently been there for many months during the pandemic but left on our final day to resume its cruising duties.

On the final day of out trip to Devon, keith and I did a round trip which included a cruise on the River Dart and a ride on the Dartmouth Steam Railway

The first part of our journey was a bus ride from Paignton to Totnes. Then we took the ‘Cardiff Castle’ from the quay down the River Dart to Dartmouth.

Then we caught the ferry across the river to Kingswear.

From Kingswear we caught the Dartmouth Steam Railway back to Paignton

Devon Wildlife

Posted: October 18, 2021 in Birds, Landscape, Natural History
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A few pictures from my recent short trip to Devon with Keith. We were joined for two days by local birder and artist Mike Langman.

A great couple of days with lovely countryside and some great birds. Thanks to Keith and Mike.

These are a couple of pictures of a Harlequin Ladybird, which we found on our car windscreen at home the other day.

The Harlequin ladybird are originally from Asia and were first recorded in the UK in 2004. Since then they have rapidly spread and are now one of the commonest species found in parks and gardens. The amazing thing is the variations, over 100 to date, that can be found, but most are red with black spots and black and white markings on the head. This was the first time I had seen a Orange variant of this species. there are some even rarer variants such as red or yellow spots on a black background.

More commonly seen variant of Harlequin Ladybird

following our week in Norfolk, sue and I drove around the wash to South Lincolnshire for another week. We spent most of the week exploring the nature reserves on the northern shore of the wash.

Frampton marshes is a RSPB reserve near Boston which I think is one of the best reserves in the UK. It is not different this time as I saw a Black Stork, a visitor from Europe, which had been present for a number of days. Sadly although we saw it flying across the reserve we didn’t manage to photograph it.

Gibraltar point is a national nature reserve, which is on a spit of land south of Skegness. The highlight here was a group of Spoonbills, once a rare species but now becoming established in a number of places in England.

On one day we traveled north to East Yorkshire to visit the RSPB reserve at Blacktoft Sands to see a white-tailed Lapwing. It breeds on inland marshes in Iraq, Iran and southern Russia. The Iraqi and Iranian breeders are mainly residents, but Russian birds spend the winter in India and north east Africa. So it is a long way from home. the first record in the UK was in July 1975 and it has been seen here on less than 10 occasions since.

On the final day we went to Whisley nature park, near Lincoln. I have never visited here before but found it a fantastic place. Highlights seen here were a Hobby, Little Stint, Little Ringed Plover and Wood Sandpiper, although all too distant to photograph.

A fantastic week

Sue and I spent a week in Norfolk in early September this year.

On one day we went into Sheringham, a pleasant town on the coast.

Sheringham is the eastern terminus of the North Norfolk Railway. They were holding a Gala day on the day we were there so there were lots of historic locomotives to be seen.

Another day we went to the RSPB reserve at Titchwell. The highlight was an excellent view of Common snipe

We also went to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve at Cley Marshes. The highlights of the visit were views of a Common Crane and a Cattle Egret.

Our third trip to a nature reserve was to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve at Welney.

It was a very good week and we enjoyed visiting some of the wonderful nature reserves in North Norfolk.